I’ve been writing for almost ten years. I have been asked many times, ‘how to be a content writer in India.’ Quite frankly, I didn’t have a clear answer, and that’s true for many writers.
When German Novelist Thomas Mann was asked the same question, he replied, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” In all my years of writing, the process of putting ink on paper has never been easier.
Every day you toil endlessly to put your thoughts into words and paragraphs. But needless of the effort involved, most good writers are deeply involved in the process. In fact, when you are writing a piece, you lose a sense of time and space. It takes you on a journey and helps you to reflect on some of your own thoughts in the process.
Before I delve into the subject at hand, here are a few facts that qualify me to write about it. I’ve been doing this for over a decade with organizations of all sorts and must have produced between 500 and 1,000 pieces, and that’s not including pieces that never made the cut.
The site you are currently on has 250+ pieces of content and clocks over 150K+ visitors every month, so I like to believe I have a reasonably good understanding of search engine optimization. What is the point of content writing if nobody is going to read it? More on that later.
But let’s start with the basics; what is content writing? Content writing is the process of developing, writing, and editing content, typically for marketing purposes.
How to get stared with content?
For some of us, content writing comes naturally; perhaps you grew up hearing a lot of stories, wrote a lot of stories, or writing was your unique way of expressing yourself as a person. For the rest of us, writing was a lot harder; you would despise the idea of putting pen to paper.
To start content writing, you have to get two essential traits right. These are not inborne traits; they can be developed with some effort and practice.
Become a voracious reader
The first trait is you have become a voracious reader. People who read extensively can easily distinguish between good and bad writing. It comes naturally to them because they are exposed to so much content that they easily spot errors, including logical flow, comprehension, and the ability to form a convincing argument.
Most importantly, you realize how important it is to tell a story that moves the reader. Especially when it comes to writing fiction, you have to create that visual stimulus for the reader. You have to take them out of the reading table to an imaginary world that you have created with your imagination.
Consider the following passage from Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.
”Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn.Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator)
Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.”
Haruki Murakami has managed to create a body of work with his writing that is easily accessible but yet elegantly complex. The writing has a level of depth that makes it philosophical.
The depth of non-fiction writing comes from the amount of research you have done to uncover new facts and insights on any given subject. When writing comes across as shallow or fluffy, it usually points to the reader that you haven’t done enough research to find a new perspective on the subject.
As journalist Malcolm Gladwell puts it aptly, “the writers’ job is not to supply the idea but to find the idea.” He explains this further by stating how he reengineered David vs. Goliath’s story for his book.
After discovering research from an Israelian andrologist, which claimed that giants lost their capacity to see due to acute nearsightedness, he retold the tale from a new viewpoint that altered the story for the audience.
Develop perspective or an informed opinion
The second essential trait to be a good writer is perspective; Malcolm’s story points how important perspective is for great storytelling. But how do you develop perspective? I believe their few ways to develop perspective.
- The first natural way to develop perspective is experience; for instance, you can’t write about content writing without actually experiencing how it is done. But what happens when you have to write something that you haven’t experience before?
- That’s when you will have to talk to people who have experience with the subject that you are writing about. This information can be gathered from secondary research which is where again reading becomes very important. But you will also have always talk to people with experience to form an informed opinion or perspective on the subject.
Perspective, especially in fiction writing, comes from your culture, heritage, physical traits, and personal experiences. Perspective can also be shaped by eavesdropping or by observing what’s happening around you. When what you are saying aligns with the prevailing worldview, readers can relate to the story or your point of view.
Once you have developed two essential traits, the rest of the skills required are mere table stakes, including your ability to write well – grammar, comprehension, storytelling, and editing. But these skills can be developed with some hard work and experience.
I don’t think you have to sleep with Oxford Dictionary under your pillow to be a good content writer. In fact, the content you usually find in most publications and websites is designed to be read by an eighth-grader. So don’t obsess about your language skills or that you were not born as a native English speaker.
How to Be a Content Writer in India?
It takes some work to move from being a content writer in India, which earns a few thousand rupees, to earn a six-figure income every month. If you are considering content writing as a career to become rich, you have probably chosen the wrong profession. But you can certainly make a decent living from being a content writer in India.
Even before you consider setting up your profiles on one of those freelance marketplaces, consider these numbers. Fiverr has over 2.5 million sellers, Upwork has 5 million sellers, and even pure-play content writing marketplaces are difficult to crack.
iWriter and TextBroker, for instance, have over 116k and 100K content writers on their platforms. So how do you become a content writer in India who stands out from the rest of the crowd?
1. Build your content writing portfolio
The first thing that many clients would ask for when you are starting off is your writing portfolio or writing samples. The initial writing assignments you take should showcase both the depth and breadth of your writing. The client reviewing your portfolio should see that you can easily switch gears from writing something on artificial intelligence to popular culture.
Freelancer content writers usually earn $54 per 500 words, but in India, many entry-level freelance writers get paid an average of ₹2,000 – 3,000 for a 1,000-word article. Before moving to higher-paying content marketplaces like Scripted, you will have to start working with freelance marketplaces like iWriter, Textbroker, and others. The most prominent freelance content marketplaces in India include Pepper Content, Narrato, and WittyPen.
The initial assignments won’t pay you well, considering most freelance marketplaces offer tiered pricing, which buckets writers into four levels – Generic, Premium, Elite, and Elite Plus. The terminologies might vary, but your goal is to take up interesting assignments and work your way to the highest level. At the highest level, you get paid almost ₹500 – 750 per 100-words.
Freelance marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork are also driven by a rating system that determines how much work is assigned to you. So it will effectively take you 12-18 months before you get a steady influx of work.
2. Craft Your Personal Brand
Content writing is still a people-oriented business because of its very nature work usually gets assigned to the same set of writers. Most clients prefer to work with the same writers over time as they see higher value for the following reasons.
- Content writer understands the business fairly well after they have completed a couple of assignments. This is true especially when you are working with B2B clients whose business has a certain level of complexity.
- Writing can tend to get subjective at times when you start working with a client the standard operating procedures are set in place, after operating for a while you are well tuned to client expectations.
Many clients still work on personal relationships, not hiring content writers from freelance marketplaces; hence your personal brand becomes important. If you consider some of the most successful freelance content writers in India, you will realize all of them have an active social media presence.
Almost all of them have a website that also showcases their portfolio and some of their recent achievements. A strong personal brand ultimately allows you to turn from being a solopreneur to running a full-fledged marketing agency or freelance content marketplace.
Your blog also allows you to showcase writing which otherwise wouldn’t be covered in your portfolio. The whole personal branding exercise takes at least 18-24 months to start showing results. But once you build credibility, you will start seeing a small but significant number of organic leads in your sales pipeline.
3. Build your prospect list
When you have gathered enough experience as a freelance content writer and have a decent portfolio to showcase, it is about time you start prospecting. Even when you have a strong personal brand and a stellar portfolio, you can’t ignore the value of prospecting.
Prospecting essentially involves creating a list of brands you would like to work with, which also needs to be aligned with your strengths. If your core skills are creating content for SaaS businesses, you should identify companies in India relevant to your niche.
You can identify this based on the content they currently produce, and you will also be able to identify gaps in their current strategy.
Once you have identified the list of logos, you should identify the key decision-makers in those companies, including Chief Marketing Officers, Head of Content, Head of Content Marketing, VP of Marketing, etc.
Then you should locate the contact details of the key executives. It would help if you generally avoided cold calling unless you have something of high value for the decision-maker involved.
The ideal way to reach executives is to make sure to reach out to them on a 1:1 basis via your email marketing campaign. If you are struggling to find someone’s email address, we have a very detailed guide that you will find extremely useful. There are tons of tools that you can use to find email addresses without spending a penny.
The email that you share has to be well crafted, needs to be personalized, and has to be straightforward.
While the above examples might not be directly related to content marketing, it gets few things right.
- The email clearly shows that the person writing to you has been keeping track of your business.
- It sets forth social proof by stating that they have previously worked with a competitor which indicates they understand your industry which is essential for content writing projects.
- Last but not the least it clearly lays out the agenda for the call to be scheduled.
4. Fishing with spears to nets
Most small and mid-market businesses like to work with content writers on a project basis. The rationale is they want to keep the costs low and have the flexibility of working with a broad range of content writers. However, large enterprises prefer working with agencies on a retainer basis to support their content operations.
When you are prospecting small and mid-market businesses, you can fish with nets, but you need to fish with spears (preferably a large one) to landing a whale. Typically a retainer with a large enterprise could be at least worth ₹3.5 – 7 lakhs/month.
It is important to note that businesses are looking for a range of services that could extend beyond content writing to include SEO, ASO, link building, blogger outreach, social media management, and other related services.
You can only pitch to large businesses unless you have a team of full-time experts. Most content marketing agencies in India struggle to scale to land the big fish.
It takes a while to break through the threshold of working with small and medium businesses to enterprises. But once you do, it becomes easier to land bigger fishes in the ocean.
5. Set Clear KPIs and Modus Operandi
The biggest problem with content writing in India is that you get evaluated on input as opposed to output. When the key performance indicators are not clear, the volume of input becomes more important than the quality of output.
Then typically, the client starts evaluating content efforts based on input which includes the number of articles published or the number of social media updates shared, etc.
You should avoid working with clients who don’t have a clear goal defined for their content writing efforts. More importantly, create a modus operandi for how they should evaluate your effectiveness.
Typically SEO-focused content marketing in the North American market gets assessed based on the organic traffic generated (the $ value attributed) or based on the number of linking root domains generated. But the model of evaluation in India is still primitive compared to western countries.
At least the new generation of e-commerce, fintech, e-commerce, edtech, and direct-to-consumer brands have a better understanding of content marketing efforts because it directly impacts their bottom line.
Any business that sells online sees a huge value in onboarding talented content writers. But you will also encounter many businesses in your journey that don’t see value in your work.
6. Moving beyond content writing
If you are serious about content writing, you should be able to separate input from the output at some point in your career. The vicious cycle you will encounter in content writing is that your workload will keep increasing as you onboard new clients or projects.
Of course, you can hire employees and scale your operations, but you will have to move beyond content writing if you want to scale your revenue.
The additional services you can offer can be social media management, search engine optimization, translation services, performance marketing, etc.
You will also realize that content sits at the core of all such efforts, making it easier to venture into new areas.
7. Be a great storyteller
Content writing is still treated as a transactional activity as it is not seen as something that impacts the bottom line. Always remember great content essentially helps in building a brand. Some of the most successful content marketing campaigns have established a brand or created a new category.
Hubspot created a whole new category by coining the term ‘Inbound Marketing,’ and PayTM made payments synonymous with its PayTM Karo campaign.
These campaigns worked because they had a great insight told in the form of a story that resonated with the audience. When you can make this happen, people will stand up and notice your content.
What skills do I need to be a content writer
Besides some of the skills we have mentioned previously, as a content writer, you should also focus on some of the content marketing skills listed below to develop clear, consistent, and relevant content for your target audience.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Time Management
- Understanding of social media
- Technical knowledge
What is the average salary of a content writer?
Most entry-level content writers in India earn between ₹3-4 lakhs/annum. If you are a content writer with 2-6 years of experience, you can make an average of around ₹5-8 lakhs/annum. Experience writers with nearly a decade of experience usually earn between ₹9-15 lakhs/annum.
Freelancer content writers usually earn anywhere between ₹20,000 to ₹1,20,000 per month based on their years of experience and the niche they address.
Content Writing as a Career Path
Content writing is certainly a rewarding career path, but like every other profession, it has its downsides. But if you like writing and enjoy the process, you will never hate what you are doing.
I’ve written for several brands, including ghostwriting for several business leaders and always learned a lot in the process. If you are looking to learn more about content marketing, we have designed a very exhaustive guide that you will certainly find very valuable. The content marketing guide has been designed to get you started on your content marketing journey.